The Sanford City Council met Tuesday, September 21, 2021 via Zoom. Councilor Luke Lanigan was absent with notice. Councilor Jonathan Martell led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence.
Councilor John Tuttle, who is also one of Sanford’s State Representatives, gave a brief update on his work in the Legislature. He said he was especially proud of funding education at the 55% level, and fully restoring revenue sharing. He reported that more than 5,000 lower income Mainers who worked through the pandemic last year will receive a one-time payment of $300 hazard pay. The effective date of new legislation will be October 18. The deadline to submit bills for the second regular session is September 24, and he has submitted a few. He anticipates the Legislature to reconvene for a single-day session on Wednesday, September 29, to formally complete the redistricting process.
City Manager’s Report
Vaccine Mandate: City Manager Steve Buck told the Council that the US Department of Labor has confirmed that public sector employers of 100 or more people, including the City of Sanford, will have to comply with the requirement to ensure all employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested weekly. Maine is one of 26 states that has signed an agreement to abide by all OSHA requirements, but they have not yet written the rule, so the specifics on timing, and who will provide for and pay for the testing, are unknown at this time. He said the requirement is being challenged in court at the federal level and he expects it will be at the state level as well. His main concern is with the availability of the BinaxNOW rapid tests, which are in very short supply.
Mousam Promenade: Mr. Buck reported that Public Works Director Matt Hill worked with the owners of Central Furniture to redesign the portion of the Mousam Promenade that would have impacted their parking area (see our previous story). Instead, the 10’ wide pedestrian/bike pathway will be rerouted to the opposite side of River St. in that area. This adjustment will add two additional street crossings, at the River/Cottage intersection, and at the River/High/Washington intersection. Once the design is 80% finished, there will be another public hearing.
Atlantic Broadband: Mr. Buck heard back from Fran Bradley, the company’s Director of Governmental Affairs, that Atlantic Broadband’s legal counsel does not believe their refusal to sell basic cable as a standalone service violates the law or their franchise agreement, because they are not requiring purchase of a higher tier of TV service, such as HBO or Cinemax. The company bundles basic cable with internet service, but internet is not regulated in the same way as cable TV. Sanford’s attorney will look into the matter further and report back on any recommended additional action.
Hiring and Staffing: Mr. Buck said the City continues to struggle, as the business community is right now, with hiring enough staff. Among the positions the City has open are three full-time dispatchers, a part-time human resource person, assistant planner, crossing guards, public works equipment operators, police officer, seasonal public works help and several firefighters. This represents about 33 positions in all. He will be interviewing for the City’s new Communications Director next week, and has scheduled interviews for a new Parks and Recreation Director the following week.
Fire Department Accident: While the Sanford Fire Department was responding to a motor vehicle accident on Route 202 that day, Engine 2, which was parked to protect first responders, was struck by an oncoming car. The car was severely damaged, and the fire engine sustained enough damage to remove it from service until it can be repaired. Mr. Buck did not report any injuries.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard data: See separate story.
Communications and Presentations
David Jagger: Councilor Tuttle presented an Official Expression of Sentiment by the State Legislature, honoring David Jagger on his 80th birthday, which was September 15.
Detective Everett Allen: Police Chief Craig Andersen read the Certificate of Excellence that was presented to Det. Allen last week. On August 20, Det. Allen was driving back from Berwick in a marked police car on Route 4, when he was flagged down by a passenger in a motor vehicle stopped by the side of the road. Fire Chief Steve Benotti, who was traveling separately, also stopped. The driver of the vehicle was determined to be in cardiac arrest. Det. Allen and Chief Benotti secured the scene, called an ambulance and performed CPR until it could arrive. The Certificate states “The actions of yourself and Chief Benotti are excellent examples of how and why our responsibilities as first responders are not dictated by jurisdictional borders, but instead guided by honor, courage, professionalism and a commitment to community service.”
Rail Trail Task Force: Task Force Chair David Parent began by introducing the members of the Task Force and their 37-page report to the Council. He said the Task Force membership was chosen to represent all users of the Rail Trail, and they all feel the report is a balanced view of the issues and potential solutions. He spoke about a few of the most important findings in the report: “First and foremost is the City needs to embrace the Rail Trail as a valuable asset owned and maintained by the City.” He said the City needs to take responsibility for routine maintenance and enforcement, and assign tasks to the appropriate departments. He said without this ownership by the City, the trail will begin to deteriorate, as it has grown beyond the ability of volunteers to manage it. He noted that some of this work has already begun, as the Police Department has started training officers for trail enforcement. There are grants available for many of the solutions proposed in the report, and he said the Task Force members and Trails Committee members would continue to be a resource for the City.
Mayor Mastraccio called the Rail Trail “an incredibly important asset” and agreed it is time for the City to take ownership of it. Council members thanked the Task Force for their hard work on the report. Mr. Buck called the report “a roadmap to move forward.” The full report can be viewed in the City Council packet here, beginning on page 25.
Constitution Week: Mayor Mastraccio read a proclamation in recognition of Constitution Week, September 17-23, which marks the 234th anniversary of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution by the Constitutional Congress. She signed the proclamation on behalf of the City Council, and it is on display at Goodall Library.
Public Hearings/Consent Agenda
A public hearing was held on an application for a medical marijuana grower/cultivator license for Prospect Hill Holistic LLC, at 72 Emery St., Unit 305. No one spoke in favor or against. The license was granted.
Moratorium on Lagooning: The second reading of the proposed moratorium on mineral extraction lagooning and/or creation of ponds was held. Mr. Buck noted that, due to the concerns of Attorney Kristin Collins, who represents multiple gravel pit operators in the City, language was added to the ordinance to clarify that the moratorium would only apply to digging below the seasonal high water table for the purposes of mineral extraction, and not to other purposes. The Council passed it unanimously.
Fire Department Capital Acquisitions: The City Council voted unanimously to approve the financing agreements for the new ambulance and defibrillator, which were approved at the previous Council meeting.
Mousam Way Trail Connections: The City Council approved a grant application to fund improvements to two sections of trail near Sanford High School. The project had been recommended by the Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee last week.
Airport Agreement: The Council unanimously approved an operating rights agreement between the City and Blacksky Composites, LLC, located at the Sanford-Seacoast Regional Airport. Airport Manager Alison Navia said the company will operate out of Hanger E50 and all the required paperwork has been done. Israel Briggs of Blacksky said his business is focused on light maintenance, development and modification of experimental aircraft. He said he has been to every airport in New England looking for a home base, and Sanford has the best facility in the region, with the best services and a vibrant community.
Collective Bargaining Agreement: The Council voted to ratify a new 3-year collective bargaining agreement with Public Works Unit Local 481 of Council 93 of AFSCME. Mr. Buck said he appreciated the Council’s support in getting the wage basis to a competitive level, as wages were significantly behind the average for some positions. The union ratified the contract last week.
Epidemic and Pandemic Policy: The Council voted 5-1 to amend the City’s Epidemic and Pandemic Policy, which regulates employee rights and responsibilities related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the changes are that employees must self-isolate and not report to work, and must notify their Department Manager if they have been exposed or diagnosed, or are experiencing symptoms. The Policy details how soon an employee can return to work after a diagnosis or positive test, and allows employees to use unpaid leave rather than accrued benefit time. A lengthy section details the protocols that must be followed in case of workplace exposure. Mr. Buck said the new language will enable more people to stay at work, and return to work sooner, rather than having to quarantine for an extended period. Councilor Martell objected to language treating vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently, and was the sole vote in opposition.
Planning and Development Process Complaints: see separate story.
You can view the entire City Council meeting here.
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